tv Haley Barbour on Americas Great Storm CSPAN September 26, 2015 9:45am-10:34am EDT
>> coming up next, mississippi governor haley barbour recalls his role in the state's recovery from hurricane katrina. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> welcome. i am leila salisbury, and i am thrilled to see all of you this evening, i want to give a special thank you to our book friends of the university press of mississippi for this beautiful spread of snacks and to take another opportunity to thank lemme area bookstore,
they're fantastic bookstores, and we are grateful for them as always. former governor haley barbour needs no introduction. you are familiar with his many years of work in the nation's capital and he gets around on the world stage. i was talking several years ago to richard ford, who at the time was doing teaching at trinity college in dublin and he was wandering around the campus kind of exploring his new setting and the opened the door to lecture hall and there is haley barbour lecturing on international politics right there in ireland. a governor with many talents, what may have been the most significant chapter from mississippi was the politicians and public servants began ten years ago this week as the wind
began gathering in to what would be the monster storm of hurricane katrina. overs the next year, the governor, his wife, marsha, all over mississippi and the gulf coast worked tirelessly in uncharted territory so in this new book "america's great storm: leading through hurricane katrina" the governor gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how he handled this uncharted territory and the important lessons he has taken away from that particular journey. i have been fortunate to experience the governor's talent for making the impossible possible. the press, our typical build schedule is as well month publication schedule and america, "america's great storm" came together in less than six. this was a small miracle for us and i want to thank the governor and his co-author jerry nash and the governor's marvelous assistant, here tonight and not
many people who helped check facts, round up photos and do a lot of work to make this happen and the university press staff. there was a sense of in fact is the enthusiasm that we were doing something big together and that was meaningful for us. we are grateful to be part of your telling this story. you bring out the best in those around you so thank you and welcome and you are going to tell us a little more about your book. [applause] >> thank you very much, shouldn't have done that. to everybody, university press, for doing this. when i thought about writing this book, i have not casual
friendship with john mecham. i write a book, would you be interested in publishing? i sure would. the called me back two weeks later, a month later and said i have been thinking about this, you should get university press of mississippi to do this, we publish so many books this year, this is special, and in six months, john was right, gave me the right advice, we appreciate you all. i had written a book before, when i was chairman of the republican national committee i edited a book on public policy that was written by 13 committees that we have appointed an different subject matters, as far as writing a book this is my first time to do that. likely my last time to do it
that. i look at jenny back there, the two of the them most the typed what i wrote out in longhand. hundred of pages in longhand and we ended, jerry nash helped me write the book, great ally, but when you write a book before it ever gets published you have read it about 15 times. the first two three times i thought this was a great book. by the twelfth, is anybody going to want to buy it this? it may be my only book, but it was a book i had to write and you are going to see this weekend why i felt i had to write it and that is because the news media paid very little attention to mississippi after
the storm. i always a the news media has done a lot to cover airplanes and land safely. they don't consider that news. they want a big story about something terrible happening. those stories to tappan in this. we bore the brunt of the worst natural disaster in american history. it was obliteration on the coast and it wasn't just a coastal calamity. 1/3 of the fatalities happened in land in the inland counties of the stay. we had hurricane force winds north of meridian. columbus declared major disaster areas because of the amount of destruction in those counties more than 200 miles inland. to see it, frankly you had to see it in person to get it.
to capture the scale of the destruction, the type of destruction. you couldn't get that out of a television camera or photograph in a news clip. you had to see it. as time went on, i thought about this storm and the tenth anniversary would be the right time to try to write a book about the storm. the story that not everybody got to see and virtually nobody got to see enough because it simply wasn't covered very much. a story of strong, resilient, self-reliant people. who had the misfortune, whatever you want to call it, to bear the brunt of the worst natural disaster in american history and katrina was the worst natural
disaster in american history, the greatest insurance costs, it was the third deadliest natural disaster in american history, and it barreled right into us. all of us who grew up around the gulf south knows when a hurricane comes about of the gulf from north to south the worst place to be is in the northeast quadrant, the upper right hand, like a boxer's right cross. of course katrina came on shore almost on the law we see and mississippi line which is the pearl river, where mississippi and louisiana make virtually and 90 degree, it came and pushed all this water it had been pushing in front of it for days, pushed it all into that corner with 150, 160 mile an hour winds
so that camille's winds were 200 miles an hour, fallen probably 200 hurricanes and we fought camille kaimac as bad as the hurricane could be, one of only three category 5 hurricanes are to come on shore in the united states, we plan for katrina, the gold standard, could get worse than camille. katrina was much worse than camille. the winds were not as high, but that wasn't the problem. it was the storm surge. the storm surge was the greatest storm surge ever recorded in the history of meteorology according to the national weather service. the first town near wheezy and align, near the i of the hurricane, the storm surge was more than 30 feet deep, 38 feet deep when you count the waves on
top. there was not one structure left in waveland, mississippi that was habitable after the storm went through. everything was gone. the problem was it was also a gigantic. the eye of the storm was 32 miles across when it first came ashore which meant 70 something miles away, the storm surge was still more than 20 feet deep, morton 20 feet above sea level. airtran what's house in the 1850s, elevation 19, nothing left but the foundation. in fact, most people don't remember downtown mobile flooded from the storm surge generated by a storm that came on short at the pearl river.
this gargantuan storm wreaked havoc. you had to see it. i will never forget the first time i saw it. we couldn't get out on monday. the storm came in monday morning, the roads were covered in debris. this was the greatest amount of debris effort left in the wake of a hurricane. twice as much as hurricane andrew in florida in 1992. we had 47 million cubic yards of debris on the ground that got picked up by somebody the federal government paid. that doesn't include the debris that was on the ground in private yards and inland counties. that is just what the federal government registered had to pay for, 47 million cubic large, to 11 months. one of the things you learn as
you can start building until you get the debris cleaned up. this storm was genuinely unique and awful. katrina, one storm, two disasters. one disaster was what happened in mississippi. this hurricane with this gigantic storm surge, 157 mile an hour winds, the destruction we get was learned about from terrible hurricanes. new orleans if you saw a picture in time magazine which i did, a couple weeks after the storm, they had pictures of new orleans and the water would be up to the tops of windows and holmes. it was awful, a terrible terrible disaster but very different from ours because you would look, there was not one
shingle off a roof in the pictures. it was all done by rising water, flood that resulted from when the levy's first were talked and then when they gave way. very different from what we went through. we had borne the brunt of the hurricane and when i saw it the morning after the storm on monday from a helicopter it looked as if a nuclear weapon had gone off in the sound off the coast. as if the hand of god had wiped away the coast, some places for blocks, some places for miles. the storm surge crossed i ten numerous times. is not a title with, not a
tsunami. in a storm surge the water rises for hours and goes back down for hours. it pushes in, then it pulls back out and in each direction, very damaging but in this case more damaging than usual because i wouldn't have thought of it, the bays rise with the gulf. if the gulf rises 19 feet biloxi bay rises 19 feet with the bay of st. louis rises 19 feet or in this case more like 30 feet. that means if you are in base st. louis, the storm surge is tearing things apart on the gulf side but it is also tearing things apart on the north side. on the inland side. gene taylor, the congressman from base st. louis whose home was under the obliterated, it was from storm surge coming out of the bay. he lived way in camille, she
if we are getting the worst damage we have ever had someone has to be in charge. so we are going to be on your team as long as you're making progress. for an elected official to give up power is an unnatural act. yet, uniformly they did. it's one of the reasons they never lost the civil war on the gulf coast. one of the reason there was so little looting, one of the reasons we are able to put together a plan and a short.
of time. those people deserve credit. you don't read that anywhere. you didn't see that at the time. i can tell you, it made a gigantic difference. nothing, except for the strength and character of our people, nothing was more important for me to get written then the volunteers who came to mississippi. it is altogether fitting and proper that the worst natural disaster in history would elicit the greatest outpour of volunteerism and philanthropy in history. that is what katrina did. 954,000 volunteers came to mississippi in the first five years. that's not a number pulled out of the hat. when they came they would register with the church or charity that would help direct them.
954,000. perhaps remarkable is 400,000 came after the first year. we had about 600,000 come the first year. another 400,000 came another 400,000 came the next four years people. people kept coming. they were so indispensable. i'm going to tell you, for the first year virtually every volunteer out of those 600,000 didn't thousand didn't do anything except clean up. they did not have a great job when they came to mississippi. their scrape and mock, they were trying to clean off mold, they were ripping out sheet rock, turnup floors, just doing the most menial, difficult things. you know what, their attitude was so great. the most, thank said to me by
volunteers, and i saw thousands over the years, almost verbatim, the volunteer would, but, introduce themselves and say, you know governor, your people are so great and they are so grateful, but i feel like i have gotten more out of this for myself than the good i have done for the people i came to help. to me, that was such a powerful sentiment, it was rewarding to them, it was fulfilling to them. mostly these were people from faith-based group. they were church people. this was their religious service, service to their god. interestingly they were all over the lot. there is a company in salt lake city called the morel
corporation it's a big construction company, they built most of the housing for the olympics. they called me after the storm and said we would like to put our expertise to use and build some temporary shelter for people who are coming to work. so we got them aside at the park when they built this tent, big as a a football field. it slept 700 people. they had toilets and showers, the whole 9 yards. so they asked me to come for the grand opening. we said of course. i got got out of the car and there's this gigantic tent and on this and there is an area that didn't have walls it had a roof now is where the lunch was going to be. as we walked walked toward their after seeing the people i saw behind a big motorhome, a big rv
on the side with letters about that tall, it said ed bennis and action. i just kind of laughed. here's this mormon where the morales would not take any money. they and the lds church, the mormon church pay for it all. but there is the seventh day adventist doing the cooking. it kind of tickled me so i got up and spoke and i asked, how are you all how many are mormons question may be 20%, how many seven-day advents, about six, what about six, what are the rest of you all? if i had any sense i would've know they're the same to nominations that were prominent mississippi because they came
down here from a church somewhere else and were being directed by your church by their own.denomination. there is episcopalian's, presbyterians, interns, catholics, baptists, the whole 9 yards. it stayed with me. these people are all here because of their religious convictions. no matter their difference in their theology, their desire to serve their god, overcame everything. they work together like you can't imagine. so a little old man cames up to me maybe in his 70s, small and he said, governor my name is heralded up from new york. i said yes thank you for being here. he said last last night a call my son, the rabbi and i
said son it's about to be the highest holy day which typically occurs in the jewish religion, the most sake it on trade sacred day and he says i come home for the holy day? he said my son said no dad, you shouldn't come home. you you are probably closer to god where you are now than if you came back here. that just took my breath away. here's this jewish man, again he was there for his religious service, at times we had muslim and jews working together on playgrounds. it is one of the great things about america and things that are not told enough about this story. is these people came to serve
because of their religious views in our country can do that. our country country didn't get a pat on the back for doing that we need people to know who came because of their religious ideas. people like americorps, these young kids just out of college who work with the government, they they would stay for months. usually volunteers stay for weeks. they would train for a few days and work for we can go home. people who did all the training were the americorps kids because they are there for the long-term. they stayed for months. they knew how to treat people how to do. don't get me wrong, the red cross, habitat for humanity, a lot of these
places were fabulous. but the of these places were fabulous. but the vast majority of these people came out of religious organizations. i wanted that to be part of the story. that 46 of our sisters states some volunteers. more than 25,000 employees thousand employees of state and local governments and other states, came to mississippi, including 10000 national guard. when katrina hit our national guard unit was in iraq. we we had 3000 national guard in iraq. so these were a godsend to us. this is a book that is going to be mostly about things you haven't read much about. those are not the stories the news media thinks our news. the other things are about how our legislators stood up they did a great job doing things that needed to be done, by
letting casinos, sure. what they didn't do things that didn't need to be done. they didn't didn't spend money that we didn't have. they were prudent in what they did. in the book you will see i praise billy mccoy, speaker of the house. he and i file like cat and dog's over reform and budgets, and everything. when this when this came up, bill mccoy stepped up to the plate and was a real leader. there's a chapter about congress and what we did with congress. how indispensable fred cochran was. he was chairman of the appropriations committee of the senate during mississippi's darkest hour of need. he had the best position in the whole congress to help us, and he helped us. interestingly the delegation
were very much like the local officials he said after the storm on monday, he he said you're going to be down here closer to us. were not going to try to develop an planetary what we think you ought to do, you and the little local people develop a plan in mississippi. you bring it to me and i will try to get a past. you decide what we need to do and i will try to get it done. interestingly, president president bush the next week, came to the first meeting of the commission about recovery, rebuilding, and renewal. he said. he said almost exactly the same thing. he said, we want you in mississippi to decide how mississippi's golf coast will be rebuilt. we are not going to decide in washington, but i will give you all of the help i can give you. the federal government took some really bad criticism. a lot of it very deserved.
their logistical system that they had imposed totally collapsed, never worked. we are within a day or hours of catastrophic results because of it. but we were grounded and i have to tell you, 11 of the ways we worked around fema, the federal government failure, was the u.s. military stepped in. they brought us 1.7 million meals that the airlifted in and it took the place of what fema was supposed to have done. these weren't disastrous system meals, these were pentagon meals that were supposed to be for soldiers and saying we could get them replaced before we run out. so many times the federal government was a great partner,
they did a whole lot right than wrong, but they sure did do somethings wrong. some things wrong. i'm not saying they didn't. i hope when you read this book, the book is half as good as the story. if i have done the story justice, it is going to be a great book. it is a great story. i mentioned my mother talking about a crisis in most people, she always had a follow-up to that quote, she would say but remember, crisis does not create character. crisis reveals character. the character was already there. the spirit and character of the people of mississippi was there, unrecognized. perhaps most unrecognized by us, by ourselves. after katrina, after the
response of our people, i can't tell you how many times i would hear what i first heard in a business council meeting of an organization was ceos talking about how we are doing, a man man jumped up after i finished and he said, governor you have to be proud of your people. those are the kind of people we would like to have work for us. i would suggest to you that toyota, service stall, ge aviation, those places have never thought of coming to mississippi before katrina. you would not want to wish it on your worst enemy to go through what we went through. but having survived, having responded, having overcome the
worst natural disaster in history, the truth is our response to katrina did more for the image of mississippi than anything else that is happened in my lifetime. i believe that sincerely. both in people's image of us but also of our self-image. i do think we did not recognize the spirit and character of our people. as much as we should have until this terrible storm made it be revealed to everybody. i hope you like the book, i am grateful to the university press, to jenna, rebecca, rebecca, zoe, and people in washington. i am especially grateful to jerry nash. you may know that our politics are not exactly the same, but he had written a couple of books and i ask andy about it and he recommended him. we have had a great time doing
this. he has been a a great partner, i promise you we would not be here if it were not for jerry nash. i will always be grateful to him. in the book is a chapter called ten lessons in leadership. i'm not going to go through them all right here but i do believe that if you look at them, no matter what kind of leader you are, captain of a football team, pres. of the university, of the university, president of the united states, ceo of a company that you will see lessons from this mega disaster, those lessons are applicable to most crisis, even business crisis. i hope you'll learn, one i will talk about someone has to be in charge. the guy in charge have to make decisions. we were in totally uncharted
waters, nobody had been through a storm like this before and in the united states. we're making it up as we went along. someone had to be in charge and make decisions, one thing i learned, you make you make enough decisions, you'll make bad decisions. the other thing more obvious is in the mega disaster, no decision is worse than a bad decision. if you let the mega disaster take its natural course that is the worst. so i made a bunch of bad decision but the lesson in leadership is, when you you recognize you made a bad decision, change it. don't get pigheaded, don't act like it will hit people hurt people politically, change it, have a staff that is strong enough and good enough that will tell you, boss didn't turn out
like we thought it was going to. maybe maybe we need to look at something different. we do this and again. tell the truth. that is one of the great lessons of catastrophe. the credibility is indispensable to your leadership. your credibility is first tested with your own staff. if you live, if you don't tell the truth you're lying to your staff who you are depending on, who hopefully you are empowering. robert has been a long politics all of his life like i have, politicians don't like delegating authority. they are perfectly willing to delegate responsibility but there on willing to delegate authority necessary to carry out responsibility. you have to learn, delegate authority. people can get something done, they can help you.
the last thing i will say is the last lesson in the book. it is really important to have a great partner. i was blessed and katrina that marcia and i, we have been married 33 years in, 43 now but she became the eyes and ears for not just me, but for our whole team. she was on the coast the first 90 days after the storm, she became the face that says somebody cares, somebody is trying to help. i don't i say, she thought her job was to help the people who knew the least about how to get help. the people who had the least in resources. the people who needed help the
worse. she did, i am very proud of her, importantly as a lesson in leadership it is right to have a strong partner who understands what you are doing, why you you are working 80 hour weeks, why you are driving your staff in working 80 hour weeks, why this is hard. she got it, she was there to keep me informed, she was there to kick me when my ego got a little out of line, she was there to cheer me up when i got down. i will tell you, there are a lot of days that it was pretty easy to be down. we had to look at what we're dealing with. i hope you like the book. i hope you will see the book gets more coverage for what
really happened in mississippi then we have had so far. if we do, that will achieve my main goal and i hope you like it. thank you. [applause]. somebody in the back, raise their hand up. >> could you speak about the frustration of not being able to communicate and what the state did after that? >> the general of the national guard he got down to the coast monday night with 800 national guard. he said for the first several days he might as well been a civil war general, because they had no ability to communicate. he would have to send somebody did in fact he talks in the book about filling out cards and giving the card to and in listed
man and sending him to pascagoula to find some officer who they could communicate with. it is critical. it is not just cell towers, when you lose electricity you can't imagine what you all lose. it isn't just the lights go out and air conditioning doesn't work, it means the food locker and the freezers, the coolers in the grocery store don't work so all the food goes bad. it means the lift pumps at the gas station, you can have 1000 gallons of gas in the tank, you can't get it out. even the lift pumps on the sewers in areas where you have enough elevation change, sewers don't work. so it's not just the telephones and televisions. one of the great days of the entire episode after camille, it
took about eight weeks to get electricity restored to everybody. after katrina mississippi power had every customer had lost power. every customer. they lost a huge part of their generation and almost all of their transmission. they got the electricity back on in 12 days to every customer who could take electricity. now the truth is about one fourth or fifth of their customers couldn't take electricity because a lot of them didn't even have a house left. we created a new verb during katrina that his slab would. i been slab meaning my house is gone and there's nothing left but a slab. there are 20 or 25000 homes on the gulf coast that were reduced to nothing but the slab. i finish on that point but i'll tell you this, under the federal
disaster law, the existing law, states, states would get seven and a half% of public assistance, individual assistance, et cetera that the federal government gave the state to do this. we get another seven a half%% of what is called hazard mitigation. under hazard mitigation program we wanted to take our money and we had twice as much coming and build a survivable, interoperable, wireless communication system. they would not let us use the money for that. they said communications didn't fit into hazard mitigation. it's about the stupidest thing i've ever heard of in my life. if you can tell people to get out of the way, you're going to save a lot of lives and a lot of property. at the end of the day, said under cochran made them move out
of the hazard mitigation account and put it in a different account and then give it to us. that's how pigheaded they were about this stupid rule. we are still the only state in america that has a survivable, and in operable communication system statewide. anyway. >> i wonder if you talk about leadership and the composure. you you are on television so often during the disaster, you had to be dealing with information that was astronomical and the level of destruction, the amount of money you are always composed, sensible, how in the world did you make that? >> thank you for saying that.
we had a press briefing at least every day, i believe one of the strong lessons to the leader and a catastrophe is a be open, let the public through news media know what is going on. if it is bad news, admit it. when i was political director of the white house, terry kissinger spoke to the staff in setting politics if there is bad news get it out fast because on like fine wine bad news does not improve with age. so i follow that. we told the bad as well as the good. we emphasize the good, we're trying to get people hope and confidence. the ultimate mission was to get people to rebuild their communities. two jobs, it took a place to
live, a place to send your kids to school. housing was the biggest issue from the second week, searching for survivors and remains were the biggest issue the first week. we tried to get the truth out, you have to tell the truth, nothing helps you worse then people find out you are lying about something and it destroys your credibility. why i was compose? i don't think of myself as having been especially composed. i remember doing an interview with cnn on wednesday or thursday morning after the storm, miles o'brien the political reporter and we did it by satellite i was standing in front of the governor's mansion. he asked me three times in a
row, why i was not being critical of the federal government, was i being political loyal to president bush? he kept kept answering the question and i just kept duck in it. i was taught praise in public, correct in and private. if you are trying to be a good teammate you don't criticize them. finally miles said, he asked me a fourth time. i said look miles, we haven't interview or an argument which ever you want, i am ready for either one. so i did occasionally lose my temper dealing with these guys. you have to give them good information. it means you have to make it understandable. being truthful isn't enough that people don't understand it. we tried to keep the public
briefed, i don't know if there is any magic but if you try to get it across, you will tend to not be a shrill or not be overpowering as that. think you for saying that. there are refreshments over there. as we like to say the bars open. [applause]. [inaudible conversation] [inaudible conversation] >> here are some of the programs to watch this weekend. on afterwards, bill o'reilly and
buchanan talk about the career of ronald reagan following the assassination attempt during his presidency. political doug casey sat down with tv at freedom fest, a libertarian conference. he talked about his latest book, right on the money. also this weekend, chelsea clinton's the book, it's your world. she talks about what she sees as some of the world's biggest challenges and highlights a few young people who are impacting their communities around the world. you'll also see books on economics, china, firefighting, u.s. firefighting, u.s. military bases around the world and much more. for complete television schedule, book tv.org, book tv, 48 book tv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors, television for serious readers. >> author tim weiner, winner of the national book award is next on book tv.